Three examples of organisms that can be used in bioterrorist attacks to create epidemics are smallpox, anthrax, and botulism. Today, smallpox is considered eradicated (“The threat,” 2016); only two laboratories in the world have the smallpox virus for research purposes. However, the concern persists that smallpox can be used as a weapon; there are three reasons for the concern: the disease is highly contagious, the level of danger, i.e., the deadliness of the disease, is high, too, and most people in many countries, including the United States, have not received smallpox vaccination because the disease was declared eradicated almost 40 years ago.
Although no bioterrorist attacks involving smallpox have been confirmed, the threat still deserves recognition. In case smallpox is suspected (symptoms include high fever and a specific type of rash), health care providers should immediately isolate the patient.
Bacteria that cause anthrax can be used in bioterrorist attacks because they can be produced in a laboratory, can survive in the environment for a long time, can be spread easily by putting spores into powders, food, or water, and because of their fame—cases of using anthrax as a weapon were heavily publicized in the past. Depending on how the spores are contacted—skin, inhalation, or intestinal—the symptoms may include blisters, chest pain, and abdominal pain, respectively.
For prevention, various monitoring systems exist (“The threat,” 2014). However, the attack can be unnoticed until several people with suspicious symptoms are brought to the emergency room. Community health care providers should be on the alert for anthrax attacks; however, with all the existing prevention measures, the risk of attacks persists and is hard to address due to the disease’s patterns of spreading.
Among the three addressed diseases, botulism is the least contagious one; in fact, it is not transmitted person-to-person, which is why isolation is not required for patients diagnosed with the disease (“Information for health professionals,” 2017).
However, it is recognized that botulism can be used as a weapon because a widespread type of the disease is foodborne; canned food can contain the toxin that causes botulism in case it is improperly produced or poisoned with malicious intentions, such as a bioterrorist attack. Common symptoms include double and blurred vision, dry mouth, and abdominal pain. In case botulism is suspected or confirmed, community health providers should identify any food that the patient consumed, and that could contain the toxin and inform the authorities accordingly.
Disasters, Substance Abuse, and Society Violence
The Infoplease website lists 13 terrorist attacks in the United States or against Americans outside the United States between 1920 and 2000; after 2000, 35 cases are listed (“Terrorist attacks,” 2017). There is a dramatic increase in the number of terrorist attacks, and the explanation is the war on terrorism that the US government declared after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The ideological and military confrontation between the US and different forces in several other countries that were associated with terrorism resulted in a higher level of threat to the US and US citizens around the world.
In Florida, a pipe bomb exploded in a mosque in Jacksonville in 2010; FBI investigators classified the attack as a terrorist attempt and a hate crime. In this attack, no-one was injured. However, this is rather an untypical example. In April 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 people; the motivation of the bombers was associated with extremist Islamic beliefs.
In Miami-Dade County, some indicators associated with substance abuse showed a decline in 2012; for example, there were 17 percent fewer deaths related to substance abuse during the first six months of 2012 compared to the last six months of 2011 (“Drug abuse trends,” 2013). However, some particular indicators rose dramatically; this specifically refers to the situation with synthetic cannabinoids. Substances known as K2, Spice, and Mr. Nice Guy were produced in remarkably larger amounts; in 2012, ten times more synthetic cannabinoids were detected by law enforcement authorities in South Florida than in 2011.
The increase was associated with the occurrence of new channels through which the substances were distributed. More people received access to these mostly illegal drugs through the use of online ordering and delivery services; also, the traditional means of distribution, including street and club sales, continued. There is still a debate on the legal status of these substances; however, community health care providers should raise awareness on the adverse health effects of the use of synthetic cannabinoids; the effects include anxiety, vomiting, seizures, and hallucinations.
Society violence can be generally defined as the type of behavior that undermines the well-being of others. In this regard, a major problem for Miami-Dade County is domestic violence; in fact, the prevalence of this problem allows researchers to call it an epidemic (Flor & Medina, 2015). In the county, 9,811 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2014; when discussing this type of violence, one should also consider that many cases remain unreported and unnoticed for society.
The county has the highest rate in Florida. A major concern is that abusers are rarely punished; the spokesperson for the county police says that, among hundreds of cases of domestic violence that she investigated within nine years, “barely five went to trial” (Flor & Medina, 2015, para. 15). For these reasons, domestic violence remains the focus of society violence reports in the county. Community health resources include awareness campaigns and the promotion of support, include family support, for the victims.
Drug abuse trends in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida. (2013). Web.
Flor, E., & Medina, B. (2015). Domestic violence: Face of a South Florida epidemic. Web.